‘Know Islam, know peace’
DeKALB – Mohammed Labadi recounted the harrowing events of the March 15 mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, not with bloody details of the mass shooting, but with a story of peace and fellowship.
He said Haji Daoud Nabi, 71, like all Muslims on Fridays, had come to the Al Noor Mosque to pray. Daoud Nabi was a retired engineer who was known for helping the poor. He heard a commotion outside the mosque and went to check on it.
″[Daoud Nabi] goes outside, and he is faced with a man with a helmet and gear,” Labadi recounts. ”[Daoud Nabi] smiled at him and said ‘Hello brother,’ only to be met with five bullets in the chest.”
Labadi is the president of the Islamic Center of DeKalb. He, along with representatives from Northern Illinois University’s Muslim Student Association, community members, students, and interfaith leaders, took part in a “Know Islam, Know Peace” unity event Thursday.
The event at NIU’s Holmes Student Center was organized in response to the March 15 shootings, in which a gunman killed 50 people and injured 50 others.
“Do not say for those who are killed performing their duties in the way of God Almighty are dead,” Labadi read from the Quran, as he honored the victims. “But indeed they are alive, you just cannot see it, you just cannot feel it.”
Obeid Kirmani, 20, a junior at NIU majoring in electrical engineering and a member of the Muslim Student Association, said the response from the DeKalb faith community has been encouraging.
“The churches decided to show up, and they supported us as well,” Kirmani said. “We saw the way this was influencing the media itself. We can show why Islam is not the way the media portrays it. We’re a peaceful religion.”
Frequently emphasizing the importance of unity, dialogue and tolerance, Labadi said the New Zealand attack had caused a shift in the way Western media and people view Muslims. He said the public is often quick to condemn the Muslim community when a mass shooter is identified as a Muslim, but when it’s a white man, the media calls them a “lone wolf.”
“It seemed like things have changed a little bit, where they actually called a spade a spade,” Labadi said. “It’s an act of terrorism. It doesn’t matter who did it, it’s an act of terrorism.”
Other religious leaders in the audience were on hand to support Labadi, who said God wanted the community to come together.
“In the Quran, he says, ‘We made you of different tribes and different countries so that you can come together,’ ” Labadi said. “You are the same whether you are black or white, rich or poor, man or woman.”
Reverend Janet Hunt from First Lutheran Church in DeKalb read from messages her congregation wrote to Labadi’s mosque and the Muslim community.
“To my Islamic brothers and sisters, I offer what little I have,” read one note. Another, from a seven-year-old girl read, “I love you.”
DeKalb resident Beth Campen spoke about the importance of a welcome table. She was born in Burma and grew up in missionary communities in India and China. She said communication and open-mindedness are imperative to uplift those affected in Muslim communities.
“A lot of them are hurting and need us to listen without judgment,” Campen said.
When asked at the end of the event what community members could do to support their Muslim neighbors, Labadi said open-minded conversations with neighbors can be powerful ice-breakers.
“This is what starts it off, this is what can make it happen,” he said. “You, us, people, going out there and making it happen.”